Construction Acronyms – What do they mean?

The Construction Industry loves its Acronyms. An acronym is simply a word or name formed as an abbreviation from the initial components of a phrase or a word, usually individual letters, as in NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) or SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus).

There are many in everyday use in the construction industry; do you know what they mean?

Listed below are some of the more common acronyms used in construction health and safety:

ACOP: Approved Code of Practices give practical advice from the HSE on how to comply with health and safety law. Following the advice in the ACOP shows that organisations are doing enough to comply with the law. If a company is prosecuted for a breach of health and safety law and it is proved that it has not followed the relevant provisions of the ACOP, a court can find it at fault unless the company can show that it has complied with the law in some other way.

CAT: Cable Avoiding Tools are used to locate underground cables and conductors in order for buried services to be avoided during, e.g. excavations.

CDM: Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. The CDM Regulations places legal duties on Clients, Designers, Principal Designers, Contractors, Principal Contractors and workers. The HSE need to be notified about certain construction projects.

CHAS: The Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme is an independent organisation undertaking health and safety pre-qualification assessments to a nationally recognised and accepted threshold standard. CHAS is a recognised SSIP Scheme.

CITB: Construction Industry Training Board supports the construction industry. Working with industry, for industry, to deliver a safe, professional and fully qualified UK construction workforce.

COMAH: Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations. The main aim of COMAH is to prevent and mitigate the effects of those major accidents involving dangerous substances, which can cause serious damage/harm to people and/or the environment. The regulations mainly apply to the chemical industry.

CORGI: Council for Registered Gas Installers. Gas Safe Register replaced CORGI as the gas registration body in Great Britain and Isle of Man on 1 April 2009 and Northern Ireland and Guernsey on 1 April 2010. By law, all gas engineers must be on the Gas Safe Register.

COSHH: Control Of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations require employers to protect the health of employees and other persons from hazardous substances in the work place. Employers need to consider preventing or reducing exposure by identifying hazardous substances in the workplace, assessing the risks, providing suitable control measures to reduce harm to health, providing information, instruction and training for employees and others, providing monitoring and health surveillance in appropriate cases and planning for emergencies.

CPR: Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation is a first aid technique that can be used if someone is not breathing properly or if their heart has stopped

CPS: Crown Prosecution Service is responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales.

CQC: Care Quality Commission. CQC check hospitals, care homes, care services and Dentists in England to ensure they meet national standards.

CSCS: Construction Skills Certification Scheme is a competence card scheme for construction. There is a range of CSCS cards depending on the type of work being undertaken and cards can be obtained by demonstrating occupational competence and, in most cases, the Construction Skills Health Safety and Environment Test will need to be passed.

CSR: Corporate Social Responsibility can be defined as a concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis.

CTS: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a relatively common health condition that causes pain, numbness and a tingling sensation in the hand and fingers.

db: Decibels: In relation to noise, the decibel is a unit used to measure the intensity of a sound.

DSE: Display Screen Equipment includes conventional (cathode-ray tube) display screens, liquid crystal or plasma displays used in flat-panel screens, touch-screens, display screens used to display line drawings, graphs, charts or computer-generated graphics, television screens, microfiche, screens used for process control or closed-circuit television (CCTV).

DSEAR: The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations are concerned with preventing or limiting the harmful effects of fires, explosions and similar energy releasing events.

EA: The Environment Agency is an Executive Non-departmental Public Body responsible to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Their principal aims are to protect and improve the environment, and to promote sustainable development.

Note: in Wales the Environment Agency was replaced by Natural Resources Wales from 1st April 2013. It was formed from a merger of the Countryside Council for Wales, Environment Agency Wales, and the Forestry Commission Wales, and also assumes some other roles formerly taken by Welsh Government.

EHO: An Environmental Health Officer ensures that people’s living and working surroundings are safe, healthy and hygienic. They work in both the private and public sectors.

FMB: Federation of Master Builders has a source of knowledge, professional advice and support for its members, providing a range of building business services to save them time and money.

FOPS: Falling Object Protective Structure(s). Where people are carried on mobile work equipment and are at significant risk of injury from falling objects (whilst the equipment is in use), a FOPS, e.g. suitably strong safety cab or protective cage should be provided.

FRA: Fire Risk Assessment is an organised and methodical look at premises, the activities carried out there and the likelihood that a fire could start and cause harm to those in and around the premises. The aims of the fire risk assessment are:

To identify the fire hazards.

To reduce the risk of those hazards causing harm, to as low as reasonably practicable.

To decide what physical fire precautions and management arrangements are necessary to ensure the safety of people in the premises if a fire does start.

HSW/HSWA/HASWA: The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974  – this is the primary legislation covering occupational health and safety in Great Britain. The Health and Safety Executive with Local Authorities (and other enforcing authorities) are responsible for enforcing the Act.

HAV: Hand Arm Vibration means mechanical vibration which is transmitted into the hands and arms during a work activity.

HGV: Heavy Goods Vehicle means a mechanically propelled road vehicle that is of a construction primarily suited for the carriage of goods or burden of any kind and designed or adapted to have a maximum weight exceeding 3,500 kilograms when in normal use and travelling whilst laden on a road.

HSE: Health and Safety Executive is the national independent watchdog for work-related health, safety and illness. The HSE are an independent regulator and act in the public interest to reduce work-related death and serious injury across Great Britain’s workplaces.

LOLER: Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations. These Regulations are often abbreviated to LOLER and place duties on people and companies who own, operate or have control over lifting equipment. This includes all businesses and organisations whose employees use lifting equipment, whether owned by them or not. In most cases, lifting equipment is also work equipment so the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) will also apply (including inspection and maintenance).

MEWP: Mobile Elevated Work Platform is a general term used for scissor lifts, aerial platform or an extendable or articulating boom aerial device (either self propelled or vehicle mounted) used for the purpose of positioning personnel, their tools and necessary materials to elevated work locations.

 PPE: Personal Protective Equipment is specialised clothing or equipment worn by employees for protection against health and safety hazards. PPE is designed to protect many parts of the body, e.g. face, eyes, head, hands, feet and ears. PPE should always be considered as the ‘last resort’ in the protection of health and safety of workers.

PTW: Permit To Work procedure is a specialised type of safe system of work which is normally associated with ensuring potentially very dangerous work, e.g. entry into process plant and other confined spaces, working at height, is carried out safely.

PUWER: Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations. These regulations are often abbreviated to PUWER, place duties on people and companies who own, operate or have control over work equipment. PUWER also places responsibilities on businesses and organisations whose employees use work equipment, whether owned by them or not.

RAMS: Risk Assessment and Method Statements set out a formal safe system of work for tasks to be undertaken.

RCD: Residual Current Device is a life-saving device which is designed to prevent persons from getting a fatal electric shock if they touch something live, such as a bare electrical wire. It can also provide some protection against electrical fires. RCDs offer a level of personal protection that ordinary fuses and circuit-breakers cannot provide.

RIDDOR: Reporting of Injuries Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations puts duties on employers, the self-employed and people in control of work premises (the responsible person) to report certain serious workplace accidents. This includes deaths, specified injuries, over 7-day incidents, occupational diseases, dangerous occurrences and gas incidents.

RPE: Respiratory Protective Equipment protects you against, e.g. dust, vapour, gas, oxygen-deficient atmospheres. Examples include: disposable filtering face-piece or respirator, half or full face respirations, air fed helmets, breathing apparatus etc.

RRFSO: The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order – this law applies to England and Wales. It covers ‘general fire precautions’ and other fire safety duties which are needed to protect ‘relevant persons’ in case of fire in or around ‘most premises’.

SMAS: Safety Management Advisory Services Ltd is an independent organisation undertaking health and safety pre-qualification assessment for a clients’ procurement of work. SMAS is a recognized SSIP Scheme.

SSIP: Safety Schemes in Procurement is the mutual recognition scheme for occupational health and safety standards particularly within construction. SSIP facilitates mutual recognition between health and safety pre-qualification schemes saving time, effort and cost of multiple certifications.

TBT: Toolbox Talks are short discussions or presentations, often regarding health and safety, by supervisors to their employees. A TBT usually focuses on one specific topic and presents it in simple terms prior to a task or project.

Written by:


Ian James

MCIOB BSc (Hons)